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Federal party leaders stake out political turf ahead of Parliament’s return



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre greet each other as they gather in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sept. 15, 2022.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Justin Trudeau called on his MPs to rally together to confront the country’s economic and health care crises, as Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said the Prime Minister has already missed the mark and should get out of the way.

In competing speeches to their caucuses on Parliament Hill on Friday, the two leaders set the agendas for their parties heading into the winter sitting of Parliament and disparaged their opponents – a sign of the tone to come in the House of Commons.

According to Mr. Trudeau, the Conservative Leader exploits people’s anger and fears and twists facts for personal gain. Mr. Poilievre said the Prime Minister turns a blind eye to people’s suffering and dodges responsibility while leaving the country worse off.

Apart from the blistering attacks, both leaders focused much of their speeches on the same issue: the rising cost of living that is pushing households to the brink.


“These are difficult times,” Mr. Trudeau said at the outset of his speech, which struck a sombre tone. He rolled out a new slogan for the governing Liberals: “Meet the moment.” The Prime Minister repeated the phrase several times, urging his MPs to rise to the challenge of strained health care systems and pinched pocketbooks.

“These are difficult times, but that’s why our Liberal team has decided to work even harder,” Mr. Trudeau said, promising a future with secure jobs, “where everyone has a real and fair chance of success.”

Mr. Poilievre made a similar pitch, speaking of a country where it doesn’t matter who you know, but rather what you can do. But the Conservative Leader struck a much more aggressive tone than Mr. Trudeau, launching into a scorching assessment of the Prime Minister’s tenure. He mentioned the country’s crime rates, its rising cost of living, its drug overdoses and its chaotic airports.

“Everything feels broken,” Mr. Poilievre said, adding the Prime Minister “gets very angry when I talk about these problems. He thinks that if we don’t speak about them out loud that Canadians will forget that they exist.”

While lobbyists and consultants have “never had it so good,” Mr. Poilievre said, other people are suffering. “There is pain in the faces you do not see,” he added, addressing Mr. Trudeau, who was not present.

Last year, The Globe and Mail reported that the total value of federal outsourcing contracts had climbed 74 per cent since Mr. Trudeau took office, from $8.1-billion in 2015 to $14.7-billion in 2022.

Turning one of Mr. Trudeau’s past slogans against him, Mr. Poilievre said: “You told us that ‘better was always possible.’ And yet everything is worse, and you blame everyone else.”

For his part, the Prime Minister lambasted Mr. Poilievre for pushing cryptocurrencies, which the Conservative Leader had championed as an investment that would help people “opt out of inflation,” just months before the crypto crash.

Mr. Trudeau also defended his government’s record, saying new child care spending means that higher mortgage payments are being offset by lower daycare costs, and that spending on the clean economy is creating new jobs.

Mr. Trudeau said the Liberal vision “could not be more different” from that of “politicians like Mr. Poilievre, who have no real solutions to offer, and who just try to exploit the anger and concerns that people do have.”

“It’s just plain wrong when you twist the facts, or make things up for political gain. That’s not responsible leadership,” he said of Mr. Poilievre.

Heading into the second year of his second minority government, Mr. Trudeau also floated the prospect of another election, telling his MPs to be “ready for anything.”

Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute, said the Conservative Leader is already more polarizing than his predecessors were at the same times in their tenures. Mr. Poilievre has significant negatives among key voting demographics, including women and Quebeckers, she said.

Polling on the different leaders’ characteristics shows just how polarizing both Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Poilievre are, Ms. Kurl added. Liberal voters view the Conservative Leader the same way Conservative voters view the Liberal Leader. “It’s like they’re on different planets,” she said.

For example, polling released by her firm last year showed that Conservatives describe Mr. Trudeau as arrogant, dishonest and uncaring. Meanwhile, Liberals describe Mr. Poilievre as arrogant, bullying and dishonest.

Polling released Friday by Leger for the Canadian Press showed the Liberals and Conservatives tied at 34-per-cent vote intention, the NDP sitting in third at 19 per cent and the Bloc Québécois at 7 per cent.

Neither Mr. Trudeau nor Mr. Poilievre mentioned NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh at all in their speeches. Mr. Singh ended the week in Victoria, where he told reporters he had heard from people feeling squeezed on housing costs and unable to access health care.

He said more health care workers need to be recruited, properly compensated and trained. And he said expanding for-profit health care services, as Ontario and Alberta have proposed doing, will only exacerbate staffing shortages.

“While the Prime Minister has been applauding private, for-profit delivery in Ontario, and not taking the crisis seriously, the Conservative Leader, Pierre Poilievre, has also been cheering on the privatization and for-profit clinics that make things worse,” Mr. Singh said.


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Post Politics Now: Biden to press for democratic renewal in speech to global summit – The Washington Post



Today, President Biden will address a global Summit for Democracy that his administration is hosting this week. Biden is expected to call for up to $690 million in new funding for his initiative for democratic renewal, which aims to support democracy and fight corruption worldwide. The guest list has raised some questions: The United States did not invite Turkey or Hungary, a reflection of how it views both nations’ democratic decline in recent years. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to participate despite intense controversy over his effort to assert greater control over Israel’s judiciary.

In New York, a grand jury examining whether former president Donald Trump should be charged with violations of state law for hush-money payments made to an adult-film actress in 2016 is not expected to meet again on the investigation this week.

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‘The empire strikes back’: Brits laud diversity in UK politics – Al Jazeera English



When Humza Yousaf became Scotland’s new leader this week, the world of British politics entered a new era of diversity.

With Pakistani-origin Yousaf in charge at Holyrood and Rishi Sunak, whose ancestors hail from India, leading at Westminster, it could be said that the United Kingdom is blazing a new trail in post-colonial history.

“The empire strikes back,” tweeted Jelina Berlow-Rahman, a human rights lawyer in Glasgow, after Yousaf’s victory.


Rahman, the daughter of Bangladeshi immigrants, sees the moment as one of triumph which fuelled pride in her own parents, who worked hard to give their children a better start in life.

“It’s harder for people from an ethnically diverse country to prove themselves and integrate, especially when they’re from a visible minority,” she told Al Jazeera.

Raised in London, human rights lawyer Berlow-Rahman moved to Scotland to study.

But unlike Yousaf, who backs Scottish independence, she doesn’t want the UK to break up, so would be unlikely to support his Scottish National Party.

She also isn’t a fan of Sunak’s right-wing Conservative government, which is pushing through controversial legislation aimed at cracking down on asylum seekers arriving across the English Channel.

She wonders if Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman, whose Indian-origin parents came from Kenya and Mauritius, feel that, as minorities, they have to prove themselves to their party.

“It’s their way of doing it,” she said. “Sometimes the language and manner could be toned down.”

From across the political divide, Foysol Choudhury, the Bangladesh-born Labour member of the Scottish Parliament, said that Yousaf’s rise to power is a proud moment for the South Asian community.

“I know how difficult it is to be a minority and to go into politics,” he said. “It’s something to be celebrated. I’m really proud of him.”

To make a difference, Yousaf should stand up for his own ideas, he said.

But even though those ideas will inevitably differ from his own, he will always be up for a chai with his old friend.

Often, they are joined by Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader born to Pakistani Muslims.

“A lot of the time, after the debates, we’ll walk out together and talk about other things,” he said.

“It shows we’re all human.”

For Qasim Hanif, Glasgow-based convener of Scots Asians for Independence, the prospect of a Scots-Pakistani and a British Indian negotiating the partition of the UK is too compelling to ignore.

“In 1947, the British Empire would not have foreseen this,” he said. “Some of those colonialists would be turning in their graves.”

Yousaf says he wants to convince a “sustained majority” before firing the starting gun on “indyref2” – the second referendum being proposed by the Scottish government on secession.

The last vote, in 2014, saw most Scots vote to remain.

The 2016 European Union membership referendum, however, swayed opinion.

While the majority in England voted to quit the bloc, most Scots had wanted to remain in the EU – a schism which saw the Scottish independence movement regain momentum.

Hanif believes Yousaf was right to ditch his predecessor Nicola Sturgeon’s plans to turn the next UK general election into a de facto referendum.

“He knows how to play politics. If he calls a de facto referendum, he will already be on the back foot,” he said. “The UK establishment will tie you up in legal battles for years and years.”

But he hopes Yousaf will go straight into battle, lodging his legal challenge to the UK government’s Section 35 veto on Scotland’s controversial gender reforms, which will make it easier for people to change their recognised gender.

“They need to respect the will of the Scottish Parliament,” he said.

As an opening gambit, it’s a high-risk move.

Some, not least within Yousaf’s own party, question the wisdom of doubling down on a dossier that bedevilled Sturgeon’s last weeks in office.

Yousaf has been derided as a continuity leader of a party that has grown complacent after 16 years in power.

But his trenchant defence of the party’s progressive values has reaffirmed the SNP’s manifesto, bringing the growing chasm between Scotland and England into sharper focus.

As a French citizen who arrived in Scotland post-Brexit, Assa Samaké-Roman is acutely aware of the diverging paths of the two nations on immigration.

“What the Tories are doing in government is dog whistles to the far right,” said the journalist. “In Scotland, they’re not having that.

“This is the point of Scottish independence. The SNP is campaigning to escape the cruel social and immigration policies that Scotland didn’t even vote for,” she said.

In her view, Sunak’s Tories at Westminster represent a “toxic brand of Britishness”.

By contrast, Scotland espouses civic nationalism.

“That means even if I’m only here a few years, I’m as legitimate a Scot as anyone else,” said Samaké-Roman.

Scotland’s first Muslim leader

As the first Muslim to lead a Western democratic nation, Yousaf’s victory has resonated beyond the UK.

“As a French citizen, I’m thinking: ‘wow, this is where Scotland is’,” she said. “I can’t even imagine having a Muslim president in France because there’s so much Islamophobia.”

But Yousaf will not be in for an easy ride.

Like the rest of the UK, Scotland has emerged bruised from a double whammy of COVID and Brexit.

He will be entering office in fire-fighting mode, tackling the continuing fallout over a ferries procurement fiasco – now five years late and 240 million pounds ($300m) over budget – record hospital waiting lists and cost-of-living pressures.

He also inherits a party in crisis.

During the leadership contest, it was revealed the SNP’s top brass had misled the press over a 30,000 drop in membership figures, a scandal that led to the resignation of chief executive Peter Murrell, Sturgeon’s husband.

And police are currently investigating the loss of 600,000 pounds ($740,000) in funds from party coffers.

Newly elected Scottish National Party (SNP) Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) Humza Yousaf (C), smiles as he walks downstairs after the oath and affirmation ceremony at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, Scotland on May 11, 2011 [File: David Moir/Reuters]

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Justin Trudeau has let Beijing deep into Canadian politics



As hard as it is to conceive of him as such, as the longest-serving head of government in the G7 Justin Trudeau is now one of the world’s elder statesmen. He has achieved this exalted status despite innumerable scandals rocking his government, on issues ranging from corruption to “blackface” to bullying to sexual misconduct, many of which would have felled a lesser politician.

But his lucky streak may finally be ending. For the past month, Ottawa has been riveted by a series of explosive allegations about Chinese interference in Canadian politics, from illegal campaign donations to disinformation campaigns, allegations leaked to the media by members of Canada’s usually docile intelligence service reportedly angry with the government ignoring their reports.

Since then, the allegations have expanded to include accusations of improper relationships between Liberal politicians and the Chinese government. Only last week, Han Dong, a Liberal MP, resigned his party’s whip to sit as an independent to contest allegations that he advised a Chinese diplomat to delay the release of the “Two Michaels”, the Canadians arrested by China in retaliation for the arrest of Meng Wanzhou of Huawei, for political reasons. Mr Dong denies the allegations, and has stated that he is planning to “begin legal action to its fullest extent” against their publisher.

But what is most damaging for Mr Trudeau and his Liberal government is not so much the acts of foreign interference themselves, bad enough though they are, as the accusation that he wilfully turned a blind eye to what was happening. And little wonder: a Chinese consul was allegedly caught on tape as saying that “The Liberal Party of Canada is becoming the only party that the PRC can support”, as opposed to the opposition Conservatives, who have taken a much more hawkish line on China.


Mr Trudeau’s reaction so far has been to refuse to hold an inquiry into Chinese interference and to accuse his opponents of trying to discredit Canada’s democracy, not to mention anti-Chinese racism. Liberal MPs have filibustered parliamentary committees to stop further investigation and in an attempt to prevent Katie Telford, Mr Trudeau’s powerful chief of staff, from being summoned to testify to Parliament about what her boss knew about the allegations of Chinese interference, and when.

His appointment of David Johnston, a well-respected former governor general, as “special rapporteur” on foreign interference in Canada did little to calm the waters. A card-carrying member of Canada’s cosy establishment, Mr Johnston is a family friend of the Trudeaus, not to mention a former neighbour and a member of the Trudeau Foundation.

Mr Trudeau’s public praise of China’s “basic dictatorship” and his familial antecedents aside (his prime ministerial father was an early Western enthusiast for Mao’s China), his government’s record on China since he became prime minister does not inspire confidence.

He had to fire John McCallum, his own appointee as ambassador to China and former Cabinet colleague, after the latter publicly contradicted his own government’s position and sided with China on the Meng extradition case.

But now, there are signs that all of this is too much, even for Mr Trudeau’s allies. Last Thursday, the House of Commons passed a motion calling for a full public inquiry into Chinese political interference in Canada, with every party except the Liberals voting in favour.

Though the motion is not binding, what is notable is that the New Democratic Party, who are in a confidence-and-supply agreement with the Liberals, voted for it, enabling it to pass. The NDP has said it will not bring down the government over this issue; but the Liberals may well think that a snap election is their only way out of the mess of their own making.

Few seriously think that Mr Trudeau is a Chinese agent, an accusation in the more feverish corners of the Internet. But the best that can be said of his conduct over China is that he has been one of the West’s useful idiots.


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